Tyler Waddell admits a tear welled up in his eye when he pedalled into Williams Lake Sunday night.
The lakecity is just one stop — but a special one — on his long cycling and spiritual journey from Victoria, B.C. to Whitehorse, Yukon that he has embarked on this summer to raise awareness about addictions and mental health issues.
“Williams Lake was the place I got the help I needed to change my life,” Waddell said Monday. “It was pretty much my rock bottom place.”
Waddell, 35, found himself in Williams Lake eight months ago, jobless, feeling hopeless and letting his addiction to alcohol spiral out of control.
“I felt like I had nothing left,” Waddell said of the time, which forced him to seek shelter at the Cariboo Friendship Centre.
Waddell said the Cariboo Friendship Centre offered him supports and connected him with the Canadian Mental Health Association Cariboo Chilctoin Branch who helped him find affordable housing, while Interior Health sent him to a 90-day treatment centre in Surrey to help him fight his addiction to alcohol and get the couselling and treatment he needed.
“Alcohol was my trouble. But it turns out it was a whole host of other mental health issues that had me self medicating.”
Waddell said through counselling he realized he put up his first emotional wall at the young age of 10 when his parents divorced. A series of other challenges, such as losing loved ones and having survivor’s guilt himself, all led to Waddell’s struggles until he finally dealt with all those feelings at the treatment centre.
Waddell decided Victoria, therefore, was a fitting place to kick off his healing journey, which he did July 3.
Though he has never cycled much, Waddell wants to use his ride to raise awareness surrounding mental health issues and addictions on his 2,600 kilometre journey. Already he has found that people are opening up to him about their own challenges, such as a mother worried about her son’s addictions and another man who shared his struggle with depression.
“It’s really about the experiences and helping people along the way,” he said. “My eyes have been opened. There’s so much more to life than the past, or even the future. Just being present again in life, that is so beautiful.”
Tyler pulls a small trailer that carries everything he needs: sleeping bag hammock, food, water, bug spray. It has handwritten messages on the side and a growing list of communities he has gone through.
So far, Waddell said the trip has gotten him in great shape, he’s feeling better than ever and also loving setting out on the quiet open road just before sunrise and just before sunset, usually taking his breaks in his 75-kilometre day between 2 and 6 p.m.
Waddell encourages anyone who is struggling to reach out for support from friends, family or any of the many programs he found were so good in Williams Lake.
“I think Williams Lake is lucky to have the CMHA, drop-in programs and the Cariboo Friendship Centre. There are just so many good things.”
With his eyes opened, and feeling like he has a new lease on life, Waddell said he plans to end his journey in Whitehorse where he will start a new life and go back to school to be a holistic counsellor.
His advice to those struggling is to talk about their troubles.
If anyone would like to reach out to Tyler he can be reached on Facebook. Also, he will be leaving Williams Lake heading north toward Quesnel sometime around sunrise Tuesday, July 16.